The Social Network is much easier to “like” than its protagonist. In a film that successfully fuses the energy of the 2008 poker flick 21 with the darkness of Oscar-winning Mozart biopic Amadeus, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is depicted as a man smart enough to see everything but his own weaknesses. Unlike the world’s youngest billionaire, however, David Fincher’s masterpiece is flawless.
While Facebook is bringing people closer together than ever before, Zuckerberg has been a public enigma throughout most of the social media phenomenon that has defined my generation. This movie changes that, as Fincher and screenwriting icon Aaron Sorkin pull back the curtains on the revolutionary site’s Wizard of Awes.
Jesse Eisenberg will no longer be regarded as the poor man’s Michael Cera, as his portrayal of the Harvard genius will likely garner an Oscar nomination in February. The film’s star shines as a sort of Nerd Fonzie, blending creative and technological ambition with attitude.
Still, it’s Justin Timberlake who steals the show as Napster co-founder Sean Parker. JT, who was the only watchable element in 2006’s Alpha Dog (a movie that proved the pop icon has both stage and screen presence), delivers greatness as the puppeteer pulling Zuckerberg closer to financial heaven and personal hell. He also gets the last laugh, embodying the music industry’s equivalent of Zuckerberg. Napster nearly crippled the music biz, and Timberlake gets ironic payback by making its innovator the true villain within the story.
At its core, The Social Network is a movie about pursuing one’s dreams (How’s that for an Inception connection?). It will resonate with anyone who’s ever yearned to date their dream girl, get famous, or change the world. Whether or not Mark Zuckerberg did so at others’ expenses, we are all undeniably living his dream. The Social Network’s greatest achievement is revealing to us that every big dreamer still has nightmares.